Saturday, March 28, 2015

GuessCast

(Note: Most of this was written last night … polished up and posted today.)

I am very uneasy. Night has fallen and we are facing straight down the barrel of the first really serious cold frontal passage we have experienced for a while. The western horizon is ablaze in fork lightning, all of which appears to be sniffing out the top of our mast. The deck is secured. Jib and staysail sheets are wrapped and tied so the sails can't come loose. The generator is stashed, baby-stays run and tight, halyards taut, and the Dink tied fore and aft. All good things because the wind … (insert 4 intense hours here)..

Sorry for the blur - I was holding on for dear life

Literally in the middle of that sentence Kintala heeled over, struck by a massive wall of sky and water. A book flew off the starboard shelf, dishes clanked around in the galley, the Ship's Log fell off the nav station, and every bit of outside canvas was flailing and cracking like gunshots. All we could do was hang onto something and watch the numbers on the wind-o-meter scroll up … 30 … 40 … 50 … finally topping out at 52+. It seemed likely that we had been victimized by a down-burst from the passing line of storms, a blast that should have eased quickly. But the wind refused to fade. For most of the next hour Kintala swayed and bucked in winds over 40 knots, with seas high enough to wash over the bow, flow down the hawser into the chain locker and the bilge, and trigger the bilge pump. At night, wind howling, lightning flashing, and the boat moving enough to make it difficult to stand, hearing the bilge pump running was enough to leach the last bit of fun out of the evening.

The big concern was dragging. Eighty feet of chain lay in the surf between the bow and the Mantus. The Mantus is a good anchor but everything has its limits. As it turns out 50 knot winds and 5(?) foot seas tugging at it are still within its capabilities. We are holding fast, even though the seas are, if anything, bigger, and the wind has been constantly over 30 knots for the last several hours. It would have been nice if the boat upwind of us had one as well. But it didn't.

In the middle of the melee, while checking to see if we were dragging, we spotted the boat west of us heading our way. There was a light moving on the fore deck so someone was trying to do something, but whatever it was wasn't enough. Deb suggested we wake up the Beast in case we had to move, but with the oncoming craft dragging straight down our rode, I didn't think there was anything much we could do. He finally fetched up about a boat length away, just off our starboard bow. Foul weather gear and life jackets on (yep, it was that rough) we stayed in the cockpit for a while to see if he would hold, the wind still in the high 30s. It looked like all was well so Deb went below. But all was not well for long and the distance between the boats started closing again. There was very little distance left to play with.

With Deb back on deck we worked at getting every fender we have deployed on the starboard side. Then I tied one of our dock lines to the anchor chain. The plan was to cut the snubbing line free and fall back 30 feet or so. Cutting the snubber free was the only option. It was under way too much strain to lift the loops off the cleat. It seemed a small sacrifice to make, a last ditch attempt to keep the boats from pounding each other to death. In the last minute before that decision became the only possible option, the engine came alive on the dragging boat. Very slowly they worked their way away from us, pulling in rode as they went. I have no clue how they managed to miss getting tangled in our ground tackle. It looked to me like they had dragged directly between us and the Mantus. On a night like this one thanks Sister Ocean for any bit of luck one gets.

With them finally reset off in the distance we have settled into a long night. For a while the winds faded to the high 20s as the storms moved off to the east, and we had hoped the worst was over. But they climbed back up to near 40, faded away, and now, with the cold front itself finally hovering over us, they are gusting into 40s once again. The other boat is well clear though, and our deck is only slightly untidy. The Dink is twisted in its lines but still fast, the fenders are still down, (and will remain there until morning even though they are bouncing in the wind and waves), and the aft, starboard side zipper on the Bimini gave way under the 50 knot onslaught. (Deb has already taken care of that.) Uncomfortable and still uneasy, but at least we are still holding and not about to get clobbered by a wayward, fellow cruiser.


.............

It is afternoon now. The Dink is retied, the fenders secured, and the generator is charging the laptops and helping the solar panels since the sky is just now clearing. The winds are still 15 to … 28+, (I'm sitting at the nav station writing and watching the wind-o-meter). They have yet to clock far enough to the north to put us in the lee. The fetch off our bow goes clear to the horizon, white caps and waves sweep though unimpeded. At least the water no longer crashes over the toerail, and we can move around the boat without holding on with both hands. We never did talk with the crew of the other boat. They left this morning. I can't blame them for anything. They had anchored, what looked like, well clear of us. Fifty knot winds? Of course someone is going to drag. When they did they did what they had to do to keep off of us. I would not have wanted to pull and reset the hook in the middle of that mess last night. They did well, and I wish I had had the chance to tell them so.

As bad as it was here, I think staying was the right choice. The winds never moved as far north as the forecast suggested, nor as fast out of the south west. Here, when the winds first unloaded on us, we were still somewhat in the lee of Little Abaco Island. Had we moved we would have been facing the direct onslaught of the storm while hemmed in by the cove of Great Sale Cay. It must have been a regular witch's cauldron in there.

In my last post I said something about buying the ticket and taking the ride. A bit of a glib statement based on what we had seen in the GRIB forecasts over the last several days. I should know better than to ever be glib about the weather. Wind speeds in the forecast were off by more than 50%. The direction change and the forecast easing is hours and hours behind schedule, but maybe we will be in the lee by this evening. Nowhere was a hint of wind gusts to 50+, sustained winds at 40+, and lightning to scare the wee-wee out of a dog.

Quite a ride. It isn't completely over yet. And I'd just as soon not take another one like it anytime soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Beast gets a break …

Crab Cay anchorage on Little Abaco Island
Kintala has pointed her bow westward and is starting the trek back toward the US of A. The disappointment of having to leave the Islands after barely a month is balanced by those we are sailing toward. Family awaits in Annapolis and Pittsburgh. Then there are Daughters (3), Son-in-Laws (2), and grand kids (soon to be 9) in Indianapolis and St. Louis. There is a chance to sell the condo, (hopefully a good chance) and to see some old friends at Carlyle as well as St. Louis.


We left Green Turtle and sailed back to Nunjack, spending four nights in our new favorite place. Then left Nunjack for Crab, spending two night in one of our favorite places from last year. From Crab we headed for Fox Town to do some provisioning in another of our favorite places. (Can you tell we like this part of the world?) That last leg was on Tuesday.

Did I mention light wind?
Even with the pole up the sail was challenged
We managed to sail off of the anchor to start the day, then on to the anchor to finish the day; thus giving the WesterBeast a break. Not a big deal in the sailing world, but a "no engine day" was a first for us on Kintala in water more open than Carlyle Lake. The wind was very light which required patience, nursing the most we could out of the sails, and keeping track of the arrival time to make sure we were in by nightfall. It was the second time in Fox Town and the approach is pretty open and easy. But there are shallow spots and rocks to avoid and the overcast sky would make, once the sun disappeared, for a dark hard to describe to city dwellers. We would have woken up the Beast rather than try the approach at night, but managed enough speed to arrive in the late afternoon.

By then the wind had picked up a little and we were doing four knots for the first time since leaving Crab. Getting into the cove brought us up ever more tightly on the wind, a perfect setup. We rolled in a bit of the head sail, than a bit more, than a bit more. Deb picked her spot and spun Kintala the rest of the way up into the wind. I rolled in the last of the jib then took a leisurely stroll up the deck. Just as the boat's forward speed bled away to nothing the Mantus splashed and grabbed hold of the bottom. The wind provided enough push to set the hook, and the day was done.

Sunset reward after a perfect day.
It was a normal day of sailing and a small accomplishment, but it gave us a sense that we are getting better at this. Still, we have a thousand nautical miles to go, across the Stream, up the East Coast, and through the Chesapeake, to get where we need to be. Again, not such a big deal in the world of cruising, a thousand boats will be doing the same thing in the next couple of months. But still a big enough deal to us to make patience and careful planning watch-words to keep close until we reach Oak Harbor.

Patience and careful planning are not new, particularly to someone who spent a career in aviation. But in my land life patience and careful planning could take a back seat once the front door was closed upon arriving home. Unless a tornado came by the house wasn't likely to go anywhere. The winds could blow, the rain and snow could fall, but inside all was safe and secure. The water “tanks” were always full, there was milk in the 'fridge and, if not, the store was only two blocks away. Unlike Island stores, US stores always have milk, and meat, and fresh fruit and veggies. The big screen TV always had ready access to a fast Internet connection. Good for entertainment but even better for checking weather. (Not the Big Screen but the Internet connection.)

The companionway on Kintala isn't anything like the front door of the house. That isn't to say we never feel safe and secure “out here”. With the Mantus well set in the placid and clear water of a protected yet sparsely populated anchorage, cold one in hand as the sun sets on a perfect day, it is hard to feel any more safe and secure. There is no TV blaring the latest bad news, no sirens in the streets or helicopters hunting overhead. Sometimes after the sun goes down, particularly on a clear night with the sky ablaze, it is so quiet that the stars themselves seem to be whispering. (Which, I will admit, takes a little getting used to.)

Yet, even then, there is a little bit of guard left up. If you don't think so, make a loud noise that can't instantly be identified, then watch how fast the cold drink gets set aside and the crew jumps to.

After much debate it was decided that, rather than racing an impending cold front to Great Sale this morning, a slightly better choice would be to wait it out here in Fox Town. Kintala is going to be pretty exposed to the west winds the rest of today and most of tonight, so it remains to be seen if it was a good call or no. Green Turtle is the only really protected spot in this part of the Abacos, but is too far away and in the wrong direction to be of any use to us for the upcoming weather. Buy a ticket, take the ride.

The next few stops will(?) be Great Sale, Mangrove, West End, and the US, maybe Fernandina Beach off the St. Mary's Entrance. At roughly 275nm, West End to Fernandina would be the longest passage we have made, so we are still thinking about it. Another one of those “not a big deal in the cruising world...but”, and the Beast will likely have to get up for at least part of that one.

More Bahamian water pictures, these of the faint ripples on nearly flat water...



Looks a bit like a Windows 7 wallpaper, no?

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bahamas Provisioning

When you get to the end of a trip to the Bahamas you have to get a little creative with meal cooking. Most of the produce is usually gone, you're down to canned fruit, there might be an onion or one single potato hiding away in a basket somewhere, all of the store-bought bread, buns and chips are long gone.  Dinner ended up being cold meatloaf sandwiches on homemade buns (we almost always have flour and yeast), and homemade potato chips. Creativity is the key.


For once, we brought enough beer along, having stashed a bunch of cases of cans in the bottom of a locker behind the settee. Not so much luck with milk though. Yesterday we went to the store in Fox Town and scored the last two half gallons of milk ($6.00 each). Tim dug into the cookie stash and poured himself a glass of milk, only to discover it was spoiled. It was more than a week out of date, a fact that had escaped our notice at the store. We trudged back there today to exchange it only to find out that there hadn't been any milk on the shelf at Marsh Harbor where they go to resupply. "Hmm", she said, "Maybe that's why it was all pulled from their shelves." Indeed. Since Tim is not a big fan of boxed, instant, or canned milk, he's opting for tea with his cookies tonight.

As long as you're willing to adjust your likes and dislikes and stretch your pallet a little, you can do fairly well in the Bahamas. It does require a good bit of cooking, though, as all of the pre-packaged things like cookies, crackers, chips, etc. are all unbelievably priced. Some things, like eggs for instance, are only about 20% more. Other things like cereal and chips are at least 100% more. When you can find it, the Bahamian coconut bread is to die for, but finding things consistently is very difficult. Take a lot of flour and practice your bread kneading.

Now what can I make with a half a pound of bacon, some rusty lettuce and half a pear...

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Day on the Edge …

Kintala is sitting in the worst possible anchorage for 15 knots worth of wind out of the west, which is exactly what the wind is doing. With 2 and 3 foot rollers topped with white tossing the bow around, it is the kind of day where little gets done aboard. Since this is a remote Cay with nothing on shore and I don't really want to launch the Dink, nothing will get done off board either. In conditions like these I do much better sitting out in the cockpit than I do being below so, in order to pass the day, I decided to sharpen some of the cutlery laying around here. (I sharpen knives for the same reason my Farther-in-Law used to do knitting, keeping my hands busy enough to occupy my mind when there isn't a lot going on.)


With the edge of the galley working knives something near useful again, and the day still young, some of the rest of the sharp-ware came next. The oldest of those is a Buck 110 lock-back that used to belong to my Dad's Dad. The very tip of the Buck is broken off and I have a hazy memory of Grampa Akey doing that while trying to open a can of wood varnish for me down in his little basement shop. I got my first real introduction to tools in that shop, though I remember Grampa mostly as a fisherman. He was also a printer and Union Activist back the last time working people had to wrest control of the country from the idle rich and arrogant elite. My guess is he would be disappointed that the victory his generation won at such a bitter cost, was so quickly undone. Barely 3 generations later and his great-great-great grand children are facing the same challenge.

The Buck is a pretty thing with a brass and wood inlay handle. It is a bit bulky by today's standards, and I only carry it when someplace cold enough to require heavy jackets and jeans. Another too-bulky-to-carry-every-day knife came from my Dad, a Sharp 300 lock back. Dad is in the home now, with a mind too far gone for sharp things to be left laying around. The Sharp is a good knife, not as pretty as the Buck but lighter with a wood inlay on the handle as well. Both have blades that are four inches long. If one pulled one out today to open up an envelope I'm sure security from somewhere would be right over to see what was going on.

Dad's normal use knife was a sharp 200, same as the 300 but with a 3 inch blade. He liked it enough that, in 1981, he gave me one as a gift. I carried that thing for years and years and still have it. It stays tucked away though. I taught myself the trick of gripping the blade and snapping the knife open with a flick of the wrist. It was a useful skill since, very often, one doesn't realize a knife is necessary until there is some greasy, slippery bit of something about to fall deep into some engine recess somewhere, already keeping one hand busy. Apparently the lock back bar wasn't really designed to be opened that way and, after a couple of decades, the lock failed. The only thing my old Sharp is good for would be to cut off a finger when the blade folded up under use. I can't bring myself to throw it away though, and it is here on Kintala.

Another gift from Dad, circa 1989 – Dad loved his electric inscribing tool - is a Gerber two-edged dagger in a boot sheath. Eight inches overall with no shearing guard and nothing wrapping the handle for grip, it isn't the most useful knife in the drawer. I call it my “punk knife” as it is mostly for making one look like a bad-ass. It did come in useful once when one of the old Harleys in the group suffered an electrical glitch and faded to the side of the road. As it turned out a serrated edge – if one is careful – makes for a working wire stripper. And, in this particular case, the screws needed doing and undoing could be worked by the tip. A multi-tool would have been much more useful, but I wasn't carrying one of those that day. (People who ride, or ride around with, old Harleys, should always carry a multi-tool.) In some 25 odd years, I think that was the only time the Gerber was drawn with a purpose.

The knife that got the most attention today was a Boker Plus sheathed, two-edged dagger salvaged from The Bear. The fool who owned the boat clearly “sharpened” the knife with a file. (Idiot, its a knife not a lawn mower blade.) I have worked on getting it to take a descent edge – on and off – since last Fall. It is taking some time. Time is what I had today.

Kintala bumped and rocked in the waves, settled (sort of) in this pretty little cove. At night this place is as dark as anywhere I've ever seen in the Arizona Desert, the flare of the Milky Way and a galaxy of stars uninhibited by any artificial light. There is no one here but us and we are pretty close to the edge of what passes for normal in the US today. The edge of the “Bear Knife” sang across the sharpening stone and, along with the Buck and the Sharps and the Gerber, caused tiny bits of the history that leads to this place to float by. I miss the crew of the Bear, would love to have them anchored nearby sharing this place. It was not to be, but we got close. Grampa Akey passed a long, long time ago and most of my memories of him have passed as well. But I remember some things, and they are all good. Keeping his old knife sharp and polished just seems like the right thing to do. Someday, maybe, it will find its way to a fourth generation of his family even though that generation will have no memory of him at all.

Dad is further away than just the distance between Crab Cay and the Home. Near the end of his journey, he is beyond my reach. But I smile at my “punk knife”, keep it sharp and shiny, and remember that we rode many miles together. He flew airplanes long before I sat behind a yoke, and spent thousands of hours underwater as a SCUBA diver and instructor. My gypsy past may have come from my Mother's Dad, but the adventure in me came from the other side of the family.

Soon we will be gone from this place, getting ready to stage back to the States, heading north for the hurricane season this year. These bits of the past will go along as we extend our own history just a little bit more. But it was a good day sitting on the edge...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sailing Bucket

...as in Bucket List. A lot of sailors have bucket lists. I guess it comes with the territory. Selling off everything and going cruising is, after all, a big bucket list item itself. Most sailors' bucket lists are places they want to sail, distances they want to cover, etc. Mine? Well...so I confess, I'm a sailing geek. My bucket list is slightly different. It consists of sailing skills I want to master.

The Crab Cay Anchorage

One of the skills I have always wanted to perform seamlessly is sailing on and off the anchor. I've watched a good many people sail off the anchor and Tim and I got that pretty much down pat while we were still sailing on the lake. Now, before you go on thinking that I'm saying I've mastered all the sailing skills on my bucket list, I haven't. But I've at least tackled them and am continuing to attempt to master them. All except one. Sailing onto the anchor was something that I was always too afraid to even try. The "what-ifs" drilled fear into my head and kept me from tackling this last major item on my bucket list.

A week ago we were anchored in the Manjack / Crab anchorage north of Green Turtle and this sailboat came screaming in to the anchorage under jib alone, swept between us and the boat next to us, carried on well in to the cove, spun up and the crew kicked the anchor overboard while the jib luffed. A few seconds later the jib was rolled up, and the wind was pushing the boat back on it to set it. Tim looked over at me and said, "That guy's my hero." Every day the niggling thought poked its way into my consciousness. Wanna try it. Gotta try it.

After a couple days at Green Turtle we returned to the same anchorage and decided to try to anchor under sail, but outside the anchorage where there were no boats to crash into, just to practice. There really wasn't enough wind to pull it off, but we were encouraged. We motored in to the anchorage and the thought continued to pester.

Today we sailed in some perfectly brisk breeze under the genoa alone, heading to the other Crab Cay anchorage (If you ever sail in the Bahamas you'll quickly learn that there are hundreds of Crab Cays). The wind was perfect to tack around Angelfish Point and into the anchorage, all under sail. When we tacked we rolled in the big genoa and rolled out the staysail to slow the speed a bit. At 3.5 knots we sailed straight into the anchorage, turned Kintala's nose up into the wind, and Tim kicked the anchor off the bow. While Tim tended to the very slow release of chain and some very careful snubbing of the rode with the clutch, I rolled in the staysail and within a few minutes the Mantus was set pretty as you please. I was grinning like a toddler with an double-decker ice cream cone.

Next? Sailing off the anchor, sailing all day, sailing on to the anchor, no Westerbeast required. Stay tuned...























A Schucker 436 motor sailor we crossed paths with several times.
Not sure of the make of this one. Beautiful boat though!

A Catalina 42 that we chatted with on the radio.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Green Turtle Picture Post

A collection of pictures from Green Turtle Cay, Donnie's Docks, and the Manjack / Crab Cay anchorage.

A pirate ship anchored in Black Sound next to Donnie's Docks and there was a guy dressed up as a pirate on it. Our grandsons would have gone simply bonkers over this.

Black Sound  in Green Turtle from Donnie's Docks

This jelly fish floated by our boat. Not sure what type it is because it's not in my nature book.

The azaleas in New Plymouth at Green Turtle Cay are amazing.
An interesting cat ketch we saw in the harbour at New Plymouth on Green Turtle

This was taken through 3 feet of water from the surface. It's impossible to describe how clear the water is here.

There was no wind on our way out of Green Turtle. This is 13 feet deep water.
There are hundreds of catamarans everywhere down here.

Can't see the anchor in this picture? Yeah. That's why we love our Mantus anchor.

We took a dinghy exploration trip up a creek that runs between Manjack and Crab Cays. We were tol there were a bunch of green turtles up there and we were not disappointed. We saw over a dozen of them, but they moved too fast to catch on film. There is one hiding in one of these pictures if you can find him.




We motored all the way to the end of the creek in the mangroves and then drifted back with oars in the quiet.
At the very end there was this small pond with a 43 foot sailboat. It must be a centerboard with shallow draft because the creek is less than 3 feet deep even at high tide in some places.


And the weirdest thing to ever find on a beach award goes to...the plastic piggy bank.

Not sure what these are either. I need a new guidebook!

Kintala at anchor in Manjack / Crab
This bird landed about 5 feet from Tim. He was very curious. Any takers on the type?



The water here still looks like modern art to me. This is clumps of sea grass through 2 feet of rippling water